Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter or any of its characters.
AN: Hey everyone! I got a lot of positive feedback and I want to thank you all very much. Also thank you for pointing out a small mistake I made. Zachariah Smith isn't a Slytherin, I don't know why I thought he was but hey it happens. Also, yes Slughorn will be the defense teacher and I did that for a reason to which you will find out later. Aside from that, I'll shut up and get on with chapter 7!
Love Amidst the Darkness
After the feast ended the students filed out of the Great Hall as usual. Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and Neville followed the crowd almost on auto pilot. However, Harry was stopped by Slughorn before they managed to leave the Great Hall.
"Ah Harry my boy! You're the spitting image of your father!" Slughorn exclaimed.
"Hello professor," Harry replied.
"You know Harry I taught your parents back in the day," Slughorn said.
"Really?" Harry asked surprised.
"Of course that was when I was the Potions Professor, but your mother was a brilliant student!" Slughorn gushed.
"Potions? Then why are you appointed to the DADA position professor?" Harry asked.
"Ah, well I am sure Dumbledore has his reasons," Slughorn replied.
"He always does," Harry said quietly.
"Well I shan't keep you my boy but please feel free to stop by anytime," Slughorn replied.
"Thank you professor," Harry said as he headed off once again.
"Well that was kind of sudden," Hermione said once they were out of earshot.
Harry was silent as they trekked towards Gryffindor Tower, his mind was racing with questions. Hermione of course noticed and decided to find out what was bothering him.
"Harry? Are you alright? What's wrong?" Hermione asked.
"What do you know about Slughorn?" Harry asked suddenly.
"Well not much other than what I've read, but I've heard he's something of a collector," Hermione replied.
"A collector? What does he collect?" Harry asked.
"Well, I've heard he collects people, sort of like a trophy," Hermione replied.
"How the bloody hell could he collect people Hermy?" Ron asked.
"First off, I told you not to call me that, secondly, he doesn't collect them in the literal sense he collects them in a different sense. For example, by knowing a famous person really well could entitle him to things he wouldn't be able to get otherwise," Hermione explained.
"Famous or stand out figures, uses his association with them to elevate himself above the common person making himself more important," Harry replied.
"That's one way of putting it," Hermione said.
"Dumbledore hired Slughorn for a reason," Harry replied.
"But why?" Hermione asked.
"Well it would make sense that it involves Harry because of his fame, I could tell Slughorn was absolutely star struck with Harry," Neville replied.
"Dumbledore wants something from Slughorn, and I have a feeling he's going to use me to get it," Harry said.
"But what could Dumbledore want from that guy?" Ginny asked.
"I have a bad feeling about this whole thing, bloody hell first night back here and already something is happening," Harry sighed.
The group made it to Gryffindor Tower and all sat around the Common Room fire. Harry stared at the fire intently, but his thoughts had already shifted.
'I wish you were here Tonks' Harry thought.
Harry suddenly got up and headed up to the boys' dorm but quickly returned with his invisibility cloak tucked under his arm
"Harry what are you doing?" Hermione asked.
"I'm going to go see Dumbledore, I'm not going to let him manipulate me again if I can help it. I want answers," Harry replied as he headed for the portrait hole.
Hermione moved to stop him but Neville put his hand on her shoulder and shook his head. She reluctantly nodded and let him go. Ginny huffed and plopped down in the armchair nearby.
"Poor bloke, I have a feeling this year won't be easy on him," Neville said.
"When has it ever been?" Hermione asked chuckling dryly.
"Fair point," Neville replied.
Harry quickly made his way to the Headmaster's office, it wasn't past curfew quite yet but he kept his cloak in case it took long. But as he drew near, he was met by McGonagall.
"Mr. Potter what are you doing here?" McGonagall asked.
"I'm sorry professor, I know it's late but I was hoping to speak with the headmaster about a suspicion that I have had since the end of the Feast," Harry replied.
"A suspicion?" McGonagall asked.
Harry hesitated, he couldn't lie to her. One he respected her a great deal and two he knew he could trust her.
"Well if I'm right it has something to do with Voldemort," Harry replied.
McGonagall seemed to think about it for a moment but because of his connection to Voldemort it may be very important even if it was only a suspicion.
"Very well, follow me then," McGonagall said.
Harry nodded and the two headed for Dumbledore's office. They ascended the stone steps and knocked.
"Come in," came the headmaster's voice.
McGonagall entered with Harry in tow to find Dumbledore still seated behind his desk reading over several documents that lay strewn about his desk.
"Ah Minerva, and Harry what a pleasant surprise do come in. Lemon Drop?" Dumbledore offered.
"No thank you," Harry replied.
"So Harry what brings you to me this evening?" Dumbledore asked.
"Headmaster, something has been bothering me about professor Slughorn," Harry replied.
"I see, well Harry please have a seat what is bothering you?" Dumbledore asked.
"Headmaster, professor Slughorn once taught here before as the Potions professor. Yet he is here now going to be the DADA professor, I also would like to know where I fit into the equation because I know you hired him back for a reason," Harry explained.
"Very good Harry it seems that Miss Granger has had an influence on your perceptiveness. Yes I did hire him for a reason Harry and yes you are involved," Dumbledore replied.
"How exactly?" Harry asked.
"Well Harry professor Slughorn is something of a collector," Dumbledore started.
"Yes Hermione told me that which is how I know that I am involved but I still don't understand the connection," Harry replied quickly.
"I had hoped to wait on this but it seems you are catching on faster than expected. Harry I cannot yet tell you the exact reason why but I want you to get close to Slughorn this year," Dumbledore began.
"Why?" Harry asked.
"As I said I cannot reveal why yet until I am certain about my suspicions, but professor Slughorn is drawn to talented and famous people Harry. I appointed him as the defense teacher because you far exceed other students in that subject. That combined with your fame, professor Slughorn will be unable to resist such a temptation," Dumbledore explained.
Harry nodded, he guessed as much that it had to do with his fame but he was shocked Dumbledore was being so cooperative. He wondered if the events of the past summer had any influence. This in turn led his thoughts to the beautiful Auror who had rescued him from his own personal hell. He smiled inwardly as he thought back to the summer he spent with her. He quickly shook himself before he got too lost in thinking of her which was becoming so easy to do.
"Was there anything else Harry?" Dumbledore asked.
"No headmaster," Harry replied.
"Very well, oh I almost forgot to tell you that I would like for you to take up your Occulmency lessons with professor Snape again starting tomorrow night," Dumbledore said.
Harry opened his mouth to protest but Dumbledore raised his hand to silence any argument Harry had and spoke again.
"This is essential Harry, we don't want a repeat of last year now do we?" Dumbledore asked.
That one stung, but Harry sighed heavily and lowered his head. He breathed slowly to keep his emotions in check but finally nodded. Dumbledore was pleased by the small display of obedience, he feared that he was losing influence on Harry but perhaps not all of it.
"Good, now off you go," Dumbledore said.
Harry nodded and exited leaving McGonagall and Dumbledore alone. McGonagall turned to Dumbledore with a stern expression.
"What are you up to Albus?" McGonagall asked.
"I'm afraid Minerva that if my suspicions are correct then I will have to once again ask far too much of Harry," Dumbledore sighed.
"What do you mean?" McGonagall asked.
"I'm afraid that if Voldemort has done what I suspect, then Merlin help us all," Dumbledore replied.
Harry made his way down the corridors back to Gryffindor Tower. However, when he rounded the corner he stopped dead, there in the middle of the corridor was Malfoy and several Slytherins. Which was odd to Harry considering Filch would have a field day with so many students out this late. Harry whipped around the corner again hoping they had not noticed him. He was flush against the wall and listened hard but it didn't sound as though they had seen him. He could hear them in hushed whispers but couldn't make out what they were saying. He peeked around the corner and counted six of them. He recognized them of course. Crabbe and Goyle along with Parkinson, Bulstrode and Zabini They were huddled around in a semi circle, Harry moved out a bit to try and see what they were doing. He froze when he recognized someone else, a seventh Slytherin. It was Daphne Greengrass, Harry didn't know her but heard about her reputation as the Ice Queen. He put on his invisibility cloak and got a little closer and saw that Daphne's face showed fear. Harry crept closer to hear what was being said.
"So Greengrass, what's it going to be?" Malfoy asked.
"I don't know what you're talking about Malfoy," Daphne replied.
"Don't play dumb Greengrass, we all know that your family didn't support the Dark Lord in the first war. Seeing the situation you're in right now and being a Slytherin, I don't really have to spell it out for you do I?" Malfoy asked.
"What do you want Malfoy?" Daphne asked but taking a small step back.
"You should know that Greengrass, I want you to pledge your loyalty to the Dark Lord and support our side," Malfoy replied.
"If I refuse?" Daphne asked trying to sound braver than she felt.
"Oh I hope you do, my orders were to gather as many students as I was able and those who refused, I could do with as I pleased," Malfoy replied grinning evilly.
"You wouldn't!" Daphne cried taking another step back.
"Would you like to call my bluff and find out?" Malfoy asked taking a step towards her.
Desperate, Daphne drew her wand but as she did it flew out of her hand and several wands were pointed at her now.
"Now that's not very nice," Parkinson sneered.
"Well then, looks like we need to teach this little bitch a lesson," Malfoy replied.
Daphne was truly afraid now and she knew exactly what they planned to do. She cursed her luck, she had been on her way to see the headmaster because she feared something like this. Her family had been neutral in the first war despite the attempts to sway them. She turned and tried to run away down the corridor but didn't get far when one of them hit her with a trip jinx. She cried out as she started to fall but was surprised when she saw a flash of movement and a strong arm wrap around her waist and prevent her from falling. Daphne looked up to see who her savior was and was completely shocked when she looked up into the brilliant emerald eyes of Harry Potter.
"Are you alright?" Harry asked.
His tone was soft and she could tell that he was genuinely concerned which shocked her even more.
"Potter!" Malfoy snarled.
Daphne watched his eyes flash angrily as he turned his glare on the other Slytherins, he was still calm but if you looked into his eyes you could see the fury in him. Harry knew that although he had improved greatly over the summer with Tonks, that six Slytherins was too much and that they would overwhelm him. Harry plucked a galleon out of his pocket and tapped it three times before pocketing it again. He hoped his friends still had theirs.
"Daphne right?" Harry asked not taking his eyes off the six Slytherins.
"Yes," Daphne answered.
Harry considered their options quickly, they were much closer to Gryffindor Tower than they were to anything else. Perhaps Daphne was over this way attempting to throw off the others. If they could make it to the Tower and get in they would be safe and could summon McGonagall or another teacher. It was a gamble, but he didn't have much choice since Malfoy's gang was blocking the corridor.
"You know where Gryffindor Tower is?" Harry asked.
"Yes I think so why?" Daphne asked.
Before Harry could answer a stunner flew at them, Harry's wand was in his hand instantly and he batted the stunner away.
"Go there now! Run!" Harry ordered as another curse came at them.
Harry deflected this one as well but was forced to conjure a shield to repel two more. Harry silently thanked Tonks for all of the dueling practice. Daphne turned and sprinted off as he said. She looked back and saw him trying to follow while defending as spells bombarded him. Harry shielded himself as six spells hit his shield forcing him off balance. The next curse forced Harry to roll sideways. As he rolled he shot off a blasting hex at the group before he got to his feet and tried to put distance between himself and his attackers.
Neville felt his galleon vibrate around his neck, he kept it around his neck beneath his robes at all times. He had just gone to bed but quickly jumped up when he realized Harry was in trouble since he would not have activated the galleon otherwise at this time of night.
"Ron!" Neville cried.
But Ron was already fast asleep snoring loudly. Knowing there wasn't much time, Neville sprinted out of the boy's dorm without Ron. He was relieved when he saw Hermione and Ginny hurrying down from the girls dorm at the same time.
"Come on we've got to find him!" Hermione cried.
The three hurried out into the corridor and stopped to listen for any clues as to Harry's whereabouts.
"Wait! Do you hear that?" Hermione asked.
They listened hard and heard rapid footsteps, someone was running and they were getting closer. To their shock, they saw Daphne Greengrass of Slytherin sprinting towards them and she looked frantic which was very unsettling to the others who only saw her cold exterior.
"Daphne Greengrass?" Hermione asked.
"You're Hermione Granger! Oh thank Merlin! Please help! Malfoy and five other Slytherins cornered me! Potter saved me but he's in trouble!" Daphne cried.
"Where is he?" Neville demanded.
"Follow me!" Daphne cried.
"Ginny! Go get McGonagall hurry!" Hermione cried.
Ginny nodded and hurried off while Hermione and Neville hurried after Daphne. As they got closer they could hear the battle and shortly after they heard a cry of pain that Hermione recognized anywhere...Harry had been hit.
Harry was exhausted and he was slowing down but the Slytherins kept up their assault. Harry continued to defend against them but he was getting weaker and finally, as he batted another curse away Parkinson landed a hit. A Bone Breaker curse connected with Harry's left shoulder, shattering it. Harry cried out and gritted his teeth but managed another shield as two more curses hit it. However, trying to hold this shield against two more curses was the last of Harry's strength and the shield shattered. Harry was thrown back against the wall and cried out again in pain as his already ruined shoulder made contact with the wall. Harry slumped to the floor as the Slytherins advanced. Harry had managed to subdue Bulstrode, Crabbe and Zabini with the blasting hex he managed to get off. The curse had thrown all three into the wall knocking them out. But Malfoy and the other three advanced on him slowly, seeing that he could no longer defend himself.
"Not so tough now Potter," Malfoy sneered.
"I could say the same to you Malfoy," Harry spat painfully.
Malfoy's face twisted in anger and he raised his wand and launched a cutting curse, knowing Harry would be unable to stop it.
"Protego!" Neville shouted.
The shield deflected the curse and the Slytherins turned to see both Neville and Hermione pointing their wands at the group with Daphne on Neville's left. Hermione saw the state Harry was in and glared at Malfoy.
"You foul, loathsome, evil little...!" Hermione snarled.
"How dare you speak to me that way you filthy mudblood!" Malfoy snarled back.
"Looks like Greengrass led them here," Parkinson said.
"You filthy little whore, let me show you what happens to traitors," Malfoy snarled.
To Daphne's surprise, Neville stepped in front of her protectively and stared the Slytherin down.
"You'll have to go through me first," Neville said.
"Well looks like Longbottom is turning out to be quite the hero, mummy and daddy would be proud," Malfoy sneered.
Harry was struggling to move but he was in terrible pain and exhausted himself to the point where he could hardly budge. His left arm hung useless and he knew he probably had a head injury from flying into the wall. Part of the nearby wall had exploded from a stray curse and Harry had been hit by some of the debris which caused a few cuts and a bruise on his right forearm. He knew Hermione and Neville were good, but he was still fearful that Malfoy would resort to much darker curses. The stare down seemed to slow time but Harry summoned what little he had and tried to get up. He was halfway to standing when several voices cried out as one.
"EXPELLIARMUS!" several voices screamed.
All wands flew out of the students' hands and all eyes turned to see Dumbledore, McGonagall, Snape, and Flitwick hurrying towards them with Ginny in tow. When they reached the students, the first to speak was an obviously furious McGonagall who noticed Harry's condition.
"Explain yourselves immediately!" McGonagall ordered.
"Perhaps it would be best to attend to Mr. Potter first Minerva," Dumbledore offered.
McGonagall switched gears faster than any could suspect and swept to Harry's side where he had slumped against the wall after his failed attempt to stand.
"Mr. Longbottom would you please escort Mr. Potter to the hospital wing?" McGonagall asked.
"Of course professor," Neville replied.
"But..." Harry started weakly.
"Hospital Wing first then we will talk Harry," Dumbledore interrupted kindly.
Neville helped Harry to his feet as gently as he could. Harry gritted his teeth painfully and tried hard not to cry out in pain. Hermione and Ginny moved to help him up and Hermione grimaced.
"Careful of his left shoulder Neville, it's completely shattered," Hermione warned.
"Right, let's go get you fixed up Harry," Neville replied as they started off.
"Severus how are those three?" Dumbledore asked indicating the unconscious Slytherins.
"They'll be alright, Potter just knocked them out it would seem," Snape replied.
"Alright explain yourselves," McGonagall ordered sternly.
"Let us start with why so many of you are out here this late? Severus?" Dumbledore asked.
"Quite right headmaster, do tell Mr. Malfoy. Why are all of you out this time of night?" Snape asked.
"We were tailing Greengrass who left Slytherin Tower," Malfoy replied.
"Really, and why were you out and about Miss Greengrass?" Snape asked.
Daphne suddenly looked very nervous and her face showed signs of fear to which McGonagall picked up on immediately.
"I sense this is a personal and sensitive topic let us speak with her in private," McGonagall suggested.
"Fair enough," Snape agreed though it seemed hesitant.
"A better question is why all six of them were following her?" Flitwick asked.
"Might I suggest we take a more practical approach and question each of them separately?" Dumbledore asked.
Daphne couldn't take it anymore and then she saw the murderous look Malfoy sent her way and the floodgate burst open.
"Malfoy threatened me!" Daphne cried fighting tears.
"Oh? How did Mr. Malfoy threaten you?" Dumbledore asked.
"He...he said he'd..." Daphne trailed off as tears started to fall.
McGonagall registered what she was trying to say and rounded on Malfoy with a truly furious glare.
"She's lying!" Malfoy shouted.
"They cornered me, I tried to run but they tripped me with a jinx. But Potter came out of nowhere and caught me before I fell!" Daphne cried, now openly crying.
Hermione took pity on her and wrapped her arms around her trying to offer support while the others looked on in shock.
"Potter? What was he doing out?" Snape asked suspiciously.
"Mr. Potter was having a discussion with Professor McGonagall and myself about a sensitive topic," Dumbledore explained giving Snape a look that Snape recognized as extremely important.
"I suspect he stumbled upon your group then?" McGonagall asked.
"Yes, when he caught me he told me to run for Gryffindor Tower since I couldn't go this way," Daphne replied.
"How do you, Miss Weasley and Mr. Longbottom fit into this equation Miss Granger?" McGonagall asked.
"Well I became worried when Harry didn't come back to the Common Room so we decided to go look for him. When we came out we encountered Daphne and hurried here to help Harry," Hermione explained.
"It's true professors, they came to help Harry while I hurried to get you," Ginny enforced.
"As Head of Slytherin House Severus will apply the proper punishment I am sure, however I would like you to assist me Severus in escorting Mr. Malfoy and his friends to my office," Dumbledore replied.
"Of course headmaster," Severus said as he herded the Slytherins off.
"I shall leave you to deal with the others Minerva," Dumbledore said as he headed off after the others.
"Although you were out after hours I will overlook it only because of what has transpired tonight, I expect this to never happen again," McGonagall said.
"Yes professor," Hermione and Ginny said in unison.
"As for you Miss Greengrass, now that the others are gone, I understand what Mr. Malfoy threatened to do and I can assure you I will personally see to it that you are safe," McGonagall assured.
"Thank you professor," Daphne replied trying to get her emotions under control.
"For tonight, return to Gryffindor Tower with Miss Granger and Miss Weasley, at least until I can find a suitable solution," McGonagall said.
"Thank you so much professor," Daphne replied.
McGonagall nodded and headed for the Hospital Wing while Hermione, Ginny, and Daphne quickly headed back to Gryffindor Tower.
AN: Okay I'll stop there for now. A lot of this chapter was hard to write out, I hope it turned out alright. In case anyone is, don't worry, Tonks will be reappearing in the next chapter. Before anyone gets the idea, no this isn't going to be a Harem, I brought Daphne in for another reason. Finally, to my loyal readers, Thank you all so much for your support, I apologize this took longer than the last one. So go ahead and leave a review and until next chapter!